The Shiba Inu is a beautiful Spitz dog. You will get many compliments and turn many heads, while walking next to a Shiba.
A Shiba can get you a lot of attention, and open doors to many social encounters. Get used to hearing, “He looks just like a fox!”.
In fact, it is this foxy look that often gets Shibas into trouble.
Many people fall in love with the ‘Shiba look’, but are not equipped to handle his larger than life personality.
If you like the Spitz look, there are many other breeds that fall into this group, that may better suit your lifestyle.
1. A dog that is more like a cat
A Shiba Inu is independent and very clean.
My Shiba Sephy, spends a fair amount of time not just grooming himself, but also helping to groom my Siberian Husky.
Their inborn cleanliness make them generally easy to potty train.
Sephy only had potty mistakes on the first day that we brought him home (10 weeks old). After that, he has always let me know when he needs to go outside. In fact, he naturally dislikes soiling his living space, and even prefers not to go in our backyard.
Shiba Inus like having their humans around, in the general vicinity. However, they are aloof like cats, and do not need or want human affection, much of the time.
2. A good watch dog
A Shiba Inu is not a noisy dog. However, when there are strange people or strange noises around the house, Sephy will bark to alert me. Once I go and check things out, he stops barking.
Sephy also has a great memory, and will alert me if anything is out of place around the house, or in a familiar neighborhood. One day, he started barking at the fence, because somebody had put a piece of wood on top of it – amazing!
3. Graceful, agile, and high energy
A Shiba Inu is graceful and agile.
He can leap tall fences in a single bound, and can scale walls like Spiderman. If properly directed, his super powers can be used for good. However, when left on his own, the Shiba will likely turn towards the Dark Side.
Sephy is a great hiking buddy, and is always up for a new challenge. He can easily learn and conquer an agility course, but he will only do it, if I make it worth his while.
A Shiba running is a sight to behold, and a Shiba at play is poetry in motion.
4. A doggy Einstein
A Shiba Inu can learn many dog obedience commands, and he can learn them very quickly. He also thinks that he is much smarter than you, and will only obey you when it suits him.
Sephy can quickly solve complex interactive dog toys and puzzles. I am always trying out new ways to deploy his food in toys, because he figures things out so quickly.
A Shiba will challenge us and keep us sharp and on our toes!
5. A larger than life personality
No great genius has ever existed without some touch of madness.
~~[ Aristotle ]
A Shiba Inu may be small in body, but he has a ginormous personality. If a Shiba were a person, he would either be an extremely successful egomaniac or in prison!
Sephy always surprises me and makes me laugh; at least when he is not making me cry.
He has this one move, where he puts his head down on the ground, with his butt sticking up in the air – it is just too precious.
1. Bold, strong willed, and stubborn
A Shiba Inu has a “Never give up, Never surrender” attitude.
He will not back down from a challenge, and will often fight back when he perceives a threat. Because of this, many Shiba owners face aggression issues with their dog, including food aggression, dog to dog aggression, and people aggression.
To successfully live with a Shiba, we must be extremely patient, and have a good sense of humor.
Turn a Shiba’s annoying habits against him.
For example, a Shiba gets bored easily. If we ignore him and give him nothing to react to, he will quickly lose interest, and move on to something else.
Sephy can also be very competitive. If he sees another dog getting praise and rewards, he will want to strut his stuff and show that he is better.
Work with a Shiba’s innate personality, and use it motivate him in the right direction. Passive resistance and reward obedience training, work best with my Shiba.
A Shiba will hand you many lemons, which is good if you like lemonade. Otherwise, just cut one up and squirt it on his muzzle.
~~[ just kidding! ShibaShake ]
2. A sly, rougish intelligence
A Shiba Inu is super intelligent. He will most often use his brain power to “push your buttons“, and get what he wants.
Sephy is always trying to figure out how he can outsmart me, and all the humans around him. A trainer once told me that Sephy was spending the weekends, “Devising new strategies to defeat her”.
In another life, my Shiba was probably a Catholic priest. He can guilt me into doing almost anything for him.
Beware the Shiba look – it is one of his most powerful weapons, and he will use it to great effect, if he senses any weakness in you. Before you know it, your Shiba will have gotten you trained to fetch, stay, and rub tummy.
- Remember that a Shiba will do whatever he wants, if he can get away with it.
- If he cannot get away with it, he will figure out another way to get what he wants.
- When he gets caught with his nose in the cookie jar, he will give you the innocent, “What did I do?” look, and then come over to lick your hand.
As soon as you turn away, he is back in the cookie jar!
3. Like the evil, black Spiderman
A Shiba Inu is capable of great feats of agility. However, if left untrained, he will use his powers to destroy and cause great havoc in the household.
If bored and lonely, he will escape by jumping over or burrowing under your fence. He can squeeze through small holes, bite through leashes, and achieve amazing great escapes, that will make Houdini proud.
If not properly supervised, Sephy will pull down items from counters, and shred them to pieces. He may even eat some of those pieces. Once, I left him unsupervised for about 10 minutes. In that time, he pulled down a phone headset, dismantled it into little pieces, and arranged them in a strategic pattern all over the floor. Luckily, he did not swallow anything.
A young Shiba Inu has a lot of energy.
It takes a lot to keep him occupied, and away from trouble. Supervised play sessions with friendly dogs can help. Another alternative is to put him in dog daycare, or to employ the services of a dog walker.
4. A Drama Queen
My Shiba will whine, mope, and act like it is the end of the world, when he is unhappy about something (e.g. wearing a harness).
Woe be to you if your Shiba gets hurt, or even just thinks that he is hurt.
Sephy acts like he is close to death’s door, even for small things like getting grass stuck between his teeth.
Woe be to you, woe be to your vet, and woe be to anyone who tries to help.
Shibas are extremely touchy when in this state, and may snap or bite at anyone who comes near them.
In addition, Sephy is extremely sensitive to the energy of the people and dogs around him. If I am scared or stressed-out, he picks up on that immediately, and gets that way too – except with a thousand times more gusto!
5. An accomplished singer
A Shiba Inu does not bark much, but he has a wide range of vocal stylings.
The most well known is the Shiba-scream, which is a high pitched, loud scream, that will make your blood curdle. Your neighbors will think you are torturing your poor little ball of fur.
A Shiba will quickly learn to use his Shiba-scream against you, if you let him.
Do not get embarrassed, and do not give him a reaction during a Shiba-scream. I just ignore Sephy and go about my business. He quickly learned that screaming is not very effective at getting him what he wants, and he stopped doing it. Remember that a Shiba can see your outward appearance, as well as sense your inner energy.
6. Dog royalty
A Shiba Inu does not like being touched or handled.
Cutting nails, bathing, or a vet examination, is never fun for any breed of dog. However, with a Shiba, it can be total hell.
After a lot of desensitization work and management, Sephy still protests to some of these activities. He sometimes throws a fit when I pick him up, and he only likes human contact when the mood suits him.
A Shiba is like dog royalty. He wants his subjects close enough to serve him, but not too close as to sully his royal person.
7. Pretends not to understand ‘Obedience’
Obedience? What’s that?
Shibas Inus think that you should be obedient to them and not the other way around. If you want a Shiba to do something for you, you had better make him a good offer. Sometimes, Sephy bargains with me. He will sit there and wait until I have the acceptable number of dog treats in my hand, before going into his crate.
A Shiba can be a good citizen at home, but he must be properly managed.
Shibas are strong willed, independent, and bred to hunt. Aversive training does not work well on them. Shiba owners need to be creative and flexible when interacting with their dog.
A Shiba is not to be trusted off-leash, unless in a fully enclosed area.
8. Nasty, wicked teeth
For a small dog, a Shiba Inu has very large teeth, and he is not afraid to use them.
Shibas can be very mouthy; more so than many other dog breeds. When I first got Sephy at 10 weeks old, his mouth was all over me. Now, it is in control, but his instinct is still to bite.
Shibas are a primitive breed, and they lose control more easily than other more domesticated dog breeds.
A grass connoisseur
Sephy likes grazing, but he is picky about what grass he will eat. Dogs may sometimes graze when their stomachs are upset, to clear their digestive systems. However, my Shiba just enjoys eating grass, provided it is the right kind of grass.
I recently found an article suggesting that there might be something to this grass connoisseur business after all.
“We at Green Foods believe that dogs and many other carnivores, including cats and bears, eat cereal grasses because cereal grasses contain nutrients not found in meat that are essential for the animals’ good health.”
~~[ Green Foods web site ]
Thanks to all the posters at Shibatalk and ShibaInuInfo for their many humorous Shiba stories that inspired this article.
Our Tessa is now 2 1/2 yrs old and we learn from her daily. She has decided the extent of her training is complete, but we reinforce her tricks and commands constantly. She doesn’t chew or destroy anything, other then her toys, is a wonderful watch dog, very verbal, little barking, without going overboard. Is very tolerant of people, a little standoffish of children. We were encouraged by the breeder to socialize her starting at a very young age, with people and other dogs which we did. We thought we had significant experience in dog rearing, but this one has taken it to a new level. The only issue we are concerned about is being too territorial, and only at our home, not at our summer home, and only with other dogs. She will turn into the Tasmanian devil is 2 seconds flat. Teeth beard, growling, spit flying, will draw blood if she reaches with other animal, totally out of control. Any suggestions?
Sephy also gets a bit snarky when other dogs come to visit. It is mostly because he is being protective of our tripod dog, Shania.
One thing that seems to help is to have him on leash when the new dog first comes. Then the dog gets to meet my Siberian first. Meanwhile, I have Sephy with me doing commands from a distance. If he is calm, then we move a few steps closer to the action.
If he starts being snarky, I no-mark him and move back.
Maybe you can try something similar in your situation. Have Shiba at a distance, and have both dogs on leash. Initially just try with the other dog on the front lawn and your Shiba a good distance away so that she is calm. Do some obedience with her and if she is calm, praise, reward, and move one or two steps closer, etc.
If she gets snarky no-mark and move back.
I keep sessions short and try to set my dog up for success. Here is more on Sephys adventures with other dogs –
Man i guess i got lucky because my Shiba Inu is the best behaved dog i have ever had, she has yet to do ANYTHING wrong,she even gets along with our cat. she is fine with other dogs as long as they respect her space and if they don’t she will snarl at them and continue to do so until they get the idea but she wont bite.we got her as an adult dog, she was four and her owners didn’t want her anymore. i can only assume they spent alot of time in obedience classes because she is a purebred shiba with perfect manners,she even steps around puddles and mud instead of walking through them and waits to go through a door until you have walked through. the independence trait is there she doesn’t like a lot of affection but i dont like dogs who make people the center of there existence,shes perfect for me,she is proof that good training can make for a really good shiba. the only thing she is snobby about is coming when i call her, she does it if she feels like it and if not i need to go looking for some treat of some sort to bargain with. i can live with that.
It does sound like you have a pretty awesome Shiba – lucky you!
Sephy was really bad in his first six months – but then I was pretty clueless as well. Then in the next six months he was still bad, but improving. At over 1+ he got a lot better, and challenged rules much less frequently.
I recently noticed that at 3+ he has mellowed even more.
Shibas get better with time – like good wine 😀
I am completely frustrated. My shiba was the puppy from heaven….I bragged that I had never had a puppy that was so easy, well behaved, loving, etc. Then at about 7 months, my sweet boy turned into hell on 4 legs. I do take him on long walks, he has play time with another dog daily, he has plenty to chew on, BUT I cannot turn my back on him anymore. He likes to chew and dig at wood….not outside but my great grandmother’s antique oak table, all the legs of my tables and the latest was my cherry sleigh bed. It looks like he dug and chewed a 1/4 inch deep hole into the foot board. I have someone come in and walk him during the days that I have to be gone for long periods, and that is what is so frustrating. I have no choice now; he will have to be crated whenever I leave the house. I feel that I have done everything right, but apparently not. And suddenly he won’t come to me if I call his name or listen to me at all…in fact, he won’t take treats from me except at night, not cheese, not hot dogs, nothing. Getting into his bed at night seems to be the only that he will do when I command it. He will however obey my 18 year old son when he comes to visit. I am baffled. He is still very well behaved around other people and animals; his problem seems to be with me and destroying all my wood furniture.
Yeah what you describe really reminds me of my Shiba’s old days with chewing curtains. I would step away for 1 second to wash my hands, or just eat a quick breakfast, and he would chew and tear off sections of the curtains. 🙂
I got really angry and frustrated with him, but that only made things worse.
What helped with Sephy the most is to restrict his freedom some. I would make sure the doors to the bedrooms are always closed so he could only prowl around in the kitchen and living room. I also installed a baby gate at the kitchen doorway so when I needed to be in there, he goes in there with me too.
I also crated him for short periods during the day when I was not able to closely supervise him.
The other thing that worked very well is following the NILIF program and making him work for *all* of his food (either from interactive food toys or from doing stuff for me).
I would ask him to do something that he knows how to do and if he does it, I praise and reward. Shibas will sometimes try to see what they can get away with though.
Sephy started not doing the command or seeing how long he could delay before doing the command. So in those situations, I would just leave, together with all my great food and he would get ignored for a while. If he comes to bug me with whining and such during that time he will be ignored or put in time-out.
After some time, I will try another obedience/feeding session.
It is important for Shiba to learn that he gets nothing for free, and the best way to get what he wants is by first doing what you want. 🙂
Here are some things that really helped me with Sephy when he was a puppy –
Spend time with him not hate him if you can’t handle the dog don’t even be near it ♀️
My Shiba puppy(Bear) is now 5 months old and is the most loving and friendly dog I have ever seen. He wants to play with everybody and when we go to the vet, every other animal. He and my Bengal cat play together all the time. He is not allowed in the kitchen (which he knows) and if you turn your back he runs to the cats food bowl and grabs a mouthful and runs out of the kitchen. He is typical in that he won’t listen and everything is a negotiation but I wouldnt trade him for anything. I am keeping my fingers crossed that he stays as loving as he is now as he grows older. He will be getting neutered next month as I had questioned that in an earlier post.
Go Bear! And Kudos to you for socializing him so well.
Amazing that Bear and Bengal get along so well. Beautiful cats but I hear that they can be very temperamental as well. You must have great animal kung-fu! 🙂
Bear is now 6 months old and typical Shiba. He starts his obedience training this week. Or rather I start my training! I am having a professional trainer work with us in our home as it seems better to work on the places he needs to behave! He is really good and only has a few normal Shiba quirks. This choice came about when I took him to the vet and as we were getting out of the car I did not have a tight hold on his leash and off he went right towards the road.. nose to the ground and not listening to my calls. Luckily there were a couple of people that he saw and went over to play with. whew!! I was so devistated about what happened that I decided right then and there to call and get him and me some training. I will keep you posted on our progress!
Kathy and Bear
I know what you mean! Sephy escaped from me twice when he was young and we were out walking. Squirmed out of his collar. Luckily he just went to the person walking ahead of us so I was able to get him back. Now I use a Premier martingale which is very good at preventing collar escapes.
And I definitely agree with you. Having a trainer come over and give me pointers was very helpful. Sephy was a terror that flaps in the night when he was young- lol.
Definitely let us all know how training goes and what methods work best for Bear.
Well our first day of training was a big success! Bear always would go to the door and try to get out to see the “world” but now after one day of training he has a boundry that he is not allowed to cross when we are at the door. He is allowed to go to the door to “warn” us there is someone or something there but then stays behind his invisible barrier. Shibas are so smart it took just training us humans to know what and how to tell him to stay back. He also used to charge the kitchen the minute he was let out of his crate to steal a mouthful of cat food on his way outside, now he goes right to the back door to go out. Of course I still dont totally trust him and dont leave the kitchen open all the time! We are still working on other things and will keep everyone updated but so far so good!
Well Dusty has got through the big op (sped) she did take a day to warm up to use again after collecting from the vet but is now back to her cuddly, loving ways. She waits at the door for me every night to get back from work and I get a few happy noises (anyone else’s shiba do this) like a shiba scream but not as loud or a blood curtailing. She has been ok about not licking the wound and have been distracting her with a Kong which is working well. Can finally take her back for walks at the weekend.
Also Kathy your right about how smart Shiba’s are. Dusty has just passed her level one puppy training and now moved to class too, she is the youngest they have ever had in class two the cleaver girl.
Anyone else seen the ad for the new film coming out with an Akita dog in it? Looks just like a shiba.
Kathy – that is awesome that Bear is doing so well. He sounds like another super Shiba! Definitely share some pictures with us when you have the time.
Brendan – Glad to hear that Dusty is recovering well from her surgery and behaving like an angel. She is truly amazing. Sephy was a holy terror while he was recovering from his neuter.
Yeah that Akita movie is going to be sad. I saw the Hachiko story while watching the Akita episode of Breed All About It. Very sad but also very inspiring. A lot of difficult issues to deal with in there.
And you are definitely right – a red Akita looks just like a Shiba. It is strange though that there aren’t too many red Akitas here.
Ana Raquel says
Hi,as the other Ana, I am also from Brazil, but I moved to US a couple of years ago and I might say that the best dog (I mean half dog/ half person) is our little Cisco (our red shiba inu)! He is our love! I am getting worry about his diet: he is 7 months old and he is not just eating that much anymore, we change his food from Natural Choice to Puppy Chaw (or something like that) but I don’t know, if is just that or because his teeth has grown and now he wants another kind of food…. do you have suggestions?
Thanks again for the post! I loved your site, it’s being very helpfull lol
Very nice to meet you. One of my neighbors just visited Brazil and he had a really good time there. I would love to visit one of these days. Maybe when the dogs are a bit older 🙂
As for food, my Shiba also ate more when he was a pup. As he grew older, he started eating less because he wasn’t growing as fast as before.
My Shiba is allergic to wheat though, so nowadays I feed him a high protein kibble. I am currently using Innova EVO with both my dogs and it has worked well. In general, it is best to use a kibble that does not contain wheat, corn, soy, or any fillers such as hull, etc.
Here is more on the different types of dog diets.
Hugs to Cisco!
Hello! I have an 8 year old Shiba who is the apple of my eye; which might’ve lead to the problem I’m now having. I did a lot of research before picking the Shiba Inu as my first dog. While the shiba personality matches me 100%, as he’s gotten older…he’s developed sudden aggression. And I mean sudden! A little background; he got along with other dogs until we moved somewhere not close to anyone with a dog, he has always been destructive (doors, trim, toys), but is pretty much 100% shiba. As I was petting him last night, on the rear (maybe in a place that was different??), when all of the sudden (no growls, no lip curl) he started attacking my arm! Loud barks and snarls but no bitting and lasted only seconds as I yelled to correct him. This also happened a few weeks ago after he had chewed up a rubber toy. I bent down to pick up the pieces, he was on his back (like I was gonna pet his belly) and as I picked up the last piece he jumped all over my arm, snarling, barking, and biting. SHOCKED, I kneed him in the chest and he flew accross the room. He “snaps” out of it within seconds of correction (which up until that point hadn’t been physical as I’ve always used verbal) but it was scary (reminds me of springer rage). He has done this with my fiance and I assumed it was an alphaa male thing, but now…I’m affraid it’s rage. Up until now, I’ve never been at the recieving end of his anger and I’d hate to think my only option is euthanaisa. Any thoughts?
I would first consider taking him to the vet. It may be some internal aches and pains that he is responding to, which makes him more sensitive to handling.
If not, then consider what has recently changed in his routine and environment. Usually when my Shiba exhibits aggression it is in response to something that has changed in his lifestyle. My Shiba really likes routine, so he gets stressed whenever big changes occur suddenly, and he does not understand them. I am the same way 🙂
With dogs it is often about fear and stress rather than about anything else.
Has this behavior only happened recently? Has he showed any guarding behavior before – with you or with strangers?
I wanted to get a shiba inu too but i feel it’s really great responsibility to get a dog especially breeds like shiba which needs a lot of attention. I read all of the comments and smiled to myself because it’s wonderful seeing how you guys are happy with your shibas ^^ I think I should give it a few years down the road to think again cos i want to make sure my pup has the right amount of care and attention. Thanks for sharing all these useful tips and advices!
Glad you enjoyed all the Shiba stories. I agree with you 100% that dogs especially certain breeds like the Shiba are a great responsibility. I wish I did more research, just like you, before getting my Shiba. He would have had a much easier first six months. As it was, we both had to go through some tough times – lol.
When you get your little Shiba – he will be a very lucky guy to have found you! Have a great 2010!
I have a 12 year old black and tan Shiba. I love the rascal. He has a problem with chewing and licking his paws, and scratching his face incessantly. Anyone else experience this?
The two main causes that I know of for extreme dog scratching and itching are-
1. Allergies – This could be food or skin.
2. Skin parasites – .e.g. fleas or mites
My Shiba had some food allergy issues initially and I was able to narrow it down to an allergic reaction to wheat. Has anything changed in your Shiba’s routine in terms of food or environment? Environmental changes could cause skin allergies if he is coming in contact with certain plants, chemicals, etc.
My Siberian had an episode with skin mites early on. She got them from other puppies at daycare. In addition to the itching she also had hair loss on her paws and face. The vet was able to give us something to take care of the mites.
Here is more on my experiences with dog itching.
I went to the vet yesterday. He thinks that my dog, Yoshi, is allergic to grass. I already feed him a special diet due to his IBS problems. I don’t give him any dairy, for instance. The only carb in his natural dry dog food is oats. He doesn’t have fleas or mites. Does anyone know of any natural alternatives to treating canine allergies? Thank you for your comments thus far. 🙂
Grass allergy can be tricky. Some things that may help –
1. Use dog shoes when your Shiba is out for a walk.
2. Wipe your Shiba’s paws and muzzle when he comes home from a walk. I just do that with a wet sponge.
3. I also use DermaPaw on my Siberian’s feet to keep them tough and healthy. The people who created DermaPaw had dogs with pretty bad foot allergies, so it may be worthwhile to check out their website.
You may also want to re-post your question on the Shiba nihonken Forum –
Hope this helps. Let us know how it goes.
Unfortunately, all of my entries on this site to date have been trying to find information just to make my life with my 9 month old shiba bearable. Today I am happy to report that I am writing on this site to sing the praises of my wonderful little shiba male (moksha)…We have recently put up a christmas tree and stockings all with in reach of my little tyrant…as you can well imagine I was prepared for a very long and drawn out fight with my little man. However, I have at this point only told him once not to chew on the branches of the tree and he has done wonderfully…I do believe that he is coming around and I am finding that the benefits of a shiba far out weight all the little excentricities that they are well known to have…I do believe that my little shiba has given me the best christmas present that any shiba owner could ask for…OBEDIENCE!!!
A Very Content Shiba Owner
That is wonderful Meg! Go Moksha! And what a great name too (I looked it up on Wikipedia because it sounds so interesting).
Yeah I also value obedience and affection from my Shiba a lot because it is harder to come by. I guess Shibas really have us figured out! 😀
Make sure to take lots of pictures of Moksha and share then with us in the new year. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!
S. McNeal says
Our one year old, very high spirited and totally disobedient (at least with me who she obviously considered weak) has run away! It’s not the first time, but this time, I could not catch her and I am heartbroken. She was my son’s dog and only obedient with him (he’s been following the Cesar Milan training methods)and I hate to see him upset. She’s so beautiful that I’m sure if someone found her, they are thinking of keeping her. The difference with Foxxy though is that she loved to be touched and bathed and handled in general. She craved attention and like to give kisses and snuggle. She was not aggressive at all, with people or other dogs. Quite the contrary, she always thought all people and dogs should play with her. I’ve put up signs and contacted shelters and pray someone brings her back.
Foxxy sound like such a good Shiba. My Shiba is more aloof, so he should definitely get some lessons from Foxxy.
My breeder also told me that female Shibas tend to be more adventurous and are more likely to bolt. In fact, when I first visited my breeder, one of her female Shibas ran out and had a nice prowl around the neighborhood. She always returned home though after she had had her fun. I am sure Foxxy will as well.
Our thoughts and positive Shiba energy are with you and Foxxy.